David Chou on the Health IT Marketer PodcastHealth IT marketers can get ahead by including the voice of the Chief Information Officer in their messaging. Global CIO advisor David Chou shares 4 key areas of competency for today’s CIO, the impact of security threats, the necessity of innovation, winning executive buy-in by framing technology initiatives in terms of business outcomes, the difference between vendors and partners, and the need for a unique patient identifier.

Show notes

Air Date: May 11, 2016
Guest: David Chou, global healthcare CIO advisor

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Full transcript

Jared Johnson: Hello, my friends and welcome to the Health IT Marketer podcast, the podcast that tells the story of innovation in health IT. I’m your host Jared Johnson of Ultera Digital, health care influencer and content marketing. This is the first and only podcast dedicated to the health IT marketing community. Welcome aboard.

If you want to keep up with the trends, voices, and marketing tools involved in health IT and health care technology, you’re in the right place. We are on iTunes so you can subscribe and leave a review there. We’re also on Stitcher Radio and on Podbean so you can subscribe for free on either of those services if you prefer.

On this program, our guests share ideas to help you tell the story of innovation in health IT and to build your audience one gig at a time. As a reminder, you can find full transcripts of each episode at ulterablog.com. That’s U-L-T-E-R-A blog.com.

So my guest this week is Global Healthcare CIO David Chou and I’m very pleased to have David on the program today. David, how are you doing?

David Chou: Good Jared. How are you doing? Thanks for having me.

Jared Johnson: I’m doing fantastic. I don’t know how the weather is out there in Southern California these days. I know you’ve been traveling a bit. Are you back home in Southern Cal now?

David Chou: No, I’m in the lovely State of Michigan. So it’s not as nice where I can wear shorts and a t-shirt every single day. It may actually snow this week, we’ll see.

Jared Johnson: Oh, my goodness. Yeah, I forgot even what that’s like. It’s been a number of years since I’ve lived anywhere where that’s even a remote possibility. Well nice.

Well, I’m grateful to have you like I said to be on the program today. Why don’t you start out telling our listeners a little bit about your background and what you’re doing in your current role?

David Chou: Sure. Well, my background has primarily been in the . . . I’ve been in the healthcare provider space so I worked for various for-profit health systems. I worked for academic health systems most recently at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. I worked for traditional nonprofits such as the Cleveland Clinic and I’ll be joining another organization that’s upcoming where I have accepted an offer at a Children’s Hospital in Kansas City.

Currently, I was consulting for various health care organizations globally. There are a few clients I have in Asia. There are a few law firms that have retained me in the southeast region of the US and then I’m also retained by Michigan State University to help them on their journey from a strategy perspective of their health care vertical. They have about 30 clinics throughout East Lansing, Michigan. They retained me to help them out from a strategy perspective, pretty much acting as an interim CIO for the organization.

Jared Johnson: So what roles as a CIO do you particular fill with a lot of these clients and roles that you’ve had in the past?

David Chou: A lot would be advising capacity. So lots of organizations are going through change. That change can involve looking at different EMR systems. For example, Michigan State University is looking at a different EMR system so I’m helping them with the strategy, with the selection process, and then contracting. The second phase of the project would be for implementation and then we’ll go-live support.

So I think due to the fact that lots of field agents going on throughout the US, lots of mergers and acquisitions, lots of folks are looking at different systems. I think that’s been a good niche. You’re starting to see a lot of CIOs who are stepping into this world of consulting. The CIO role is not easy when you’re working for an organization just because you’re involved with everything.

You’re responsible for everything and especially with the latest security breaches, I think that’s always on the top of the CIO’s mind. So going to the consulting world allows you to sleep a little bit better at night but the challenge has always been the traveling away from home.

Jared Johnson: Well speaking of that, what are some of those top issues facing health systems CIOs today? What are some of the first things that you are addressing right off the bat?

David Chou: I would say for an organization that does not have a strategy, really put together a strategy that’s in line with the business. That’s the first 90 days. You got to have a vision and a road map for the entire organization if there is not one in place.

Second has to do with thorough assessment, highlighting any gaps. Most of every organization that I have talked to and seen, there’s always security on top of everybody’s mind especially with the latest incident in Southern California which I was pretty close to when they had to pay the ransom. So I think that sense of precedence now where hackers know that these hospitals are going to have to pay and they’re willing to pay.

But I think when I look at the role of the CIO, there are so many things that are involved in terms of our responsibility. If I had to break them into four core components, one of components is just keeping the lights on the day-to-day operations where there’s lots of organizations who have legacy infrastructures. You cannot get to just having a secure environment until you do some of that legacy infrastructure upgrade. So really, keeping the lights on and keeping things going.

The second core responsibility that I see for the CIO is to innovate, right? We have to bring new ideas that’s out of the box. We have to put together innovative strategies from a technology perspective that can be a competitive advantage for the organization.

The third role is to get the strategies for integration. If you looked at what’s going on in healthcare today, there is all kinds of mergers and acquisition. How do you integrate a new health systems, a new hospital? How do you integrate new clinics that your organization may buy?

So really thinking about expansion. For the most part, you want to be with an organization that’s expanding. You never want to be on the organization that’s going to get acquired. I think it’s important for the CIOs to really have that integration strategy and the expansion strategy in place so that when the time comes for the organization to have that discussion, you’re ready to go as a true business value partner for the organization.

The last thing I think we’re always struggling with, we hear the buzzword all the time about analytics, big data. Organizations want to make decisions based upon data and not just make decisions based upon their experience or their intuitions. So I think that’s a place where the CIO has to focus a lot on is really making an organization data driven. I think that is a crucial role.

To sum it up, I will say those are the four roles that the CIOs have to play. We have to wear multiple hats now versus before. I think that should be the focus of any incoming CIO and any existing CIO that wants to provide value add for the organization.

Jared Johnson: Can I put you on the spot and ask, are there any common misconceptions about the role of the CIO that you come across?

David Chou: Oh, yeah, definitely. They’ve used the CIO role as a utility and that’s traditionally how it has been in the past. The CIO role is a pretty new role. It probably came about in the ’90s or 2000s. But prior to that, even in my career I recall when there was not a CIO role. There was a department that we called data processing. That was pretty much the folks that took care of anything related to technology.

I think traditionally, it has been viewed as a utility. It’s been an expense which is why lots of organizations do have the CIOs reporting to the CFOs about having the executive reporting structure to the CEO or the top leader in any organization. I think that is still, I would say, the image of the CIO and the technology department. So it’s really up to the leader to really change that image, change that culture. Ultimately, we have to become a business leader versus just a pure technology leader.

Jared Johnson: Okay. Well what if we focus on one of those four core roles for a little bit and the innovation side of it? When we’re talking about how a CIO or a CMIO can support clinicians who are interested in innovation or they might have an idea or at the very least they want to engage with patients. And they want to use digital health tools and they hear about new tools that are coming out. It might be an app. It might be an entire engagement platform. But they’re interested in doing that. How does a CIO support clinicians in that case?

David Chou: I think number one, we have to listen to those ideas and we have to be engaged with what’s out there in the market. Traditionally, the CIOs have always said no to anything that doesn’t come out their own team or group. So I think that has always set, I would say, a bad taste in the end user’s mouth and that has to change.

For example, it’s not okay to have a better device, working device at your house that’s better than your corporate environment. If your iPhone or cellphone is faster than your PC or laptop at your work, that is not acceptable. So I think we as consumers getting smarter, meaning your employees are getting smarter as well. They have the latest and greatest at their home, they’re going to want to use those type of devices at the work environment. They’re going to want the same convenience factor.

It’s really up to the CIOs to number one listen. Number two understanding the experience that the end users want. End users could be your employees, the nursing staff, clinicians, and the patients. So it’s really understanding how do you create that experience utilizing the tools that may be different. It doesn’t always have to be something that’s already out there from the existing market.

I think CIOs really have to see the latest and greatest and really explore other avenues in terms of innovation and a lot of that goes to listening. You really have to listen. You have to be open to engaging and just take valuable inputs and see how you can make that to work and finding that balance.

Jared Johnson: I’m aware of roles such as chief clinical transformation officer or director of digital innovation or director of clinical innovation. But it seems like that role has a very lively, active interaction with the CIO on a regular basis. Organizations that have figured out how innovation does give them a competitive advantage and it does provide better patient care at the end of the day, organizations that have figured that out have a very strong connection between the CIO and that chief clinical officer.

Is that what you see? Because that’s just me thinking that from the sidelines. Is that relationship necessary?

David Chou: So I am seeing that. My personal thoughts on that is I believe that should be a core competency of the CIO which is why I labeled it as one of the four criteria that we have to work on. The reason why you’re seeing these roles out there in my opinion is because either number one, the CIO is so busy working on things that they cannot focus on innovation. Or number two they’re just not cutting it out and putting those strategies together where the board level or the CEOs believe that they have that vision for innovation.

So then they view the CIO’s role as purely managing technology, keeping the lights on, maintaining emails, maintaining the infrastructure. While these are all critical components, it’s going to become utility. So I think that’s the danger of any CIO who are still functioning in that traditional method.

But I am seeing that role pop all the time. There’s chief innovation officer role, the clinical transformation role. If we step outside health care, you’re seeing chief digital officers who are filling that gap in between digital products and liaison with the marketing group and the technology group and other elements of the business. So we are seeing those roles pop up.

My opinion on that is really because of there’s a deficiency on the current CIO to really fill that void. I really believe we should fill that void. That’s really part of our core function. We should not let another individual take that away. Otherwise, you’re really just, I’ll call it like a chief infrastructure officer not necessarily in innovation.

Jared Johnson: So any tips for CIOs who maybe have in the past been seen as more of a utility but recognize that they need to transform their role itself into what you’re describing? Any tips for that CIO in that situation?

David Chou: Yeah, definitely. I would say number one because we grew up in technology, the way we talk is really technology driven. So we have to stop speaking technology language when we are talking to senior leaders. It really has to be more focused on a business outcome.

One example would be let’s just say I have a project to do with enterprise network infrastructure upgrade. Well the way I would present that, I will not present it as an infrastructure upgrade. I will present it as a way to make our clinician’s life better and how we’re going to do that? Well they’re going to have faster access to their software. Their wait time is going to be reduced. They could chart a little faster because of the infrastructure upgrade.

So really highlighting the business outcome that you’re going to be expecting versus labeling projects as purely technology. I think that’s one thing that we must do well. Really making sure your technology projects are aligned to business goals.

The example I’ve just given you for a network infrastructure, one of the goals for the organization is to make the clinician’s life better and what does that mean by better? Well if they could spend two minutes less doing documentations, let’s assume that could make their life better and how are you going to do that? Well, we’re going to have to do some infrastructure upgrade to accommodate that. We’re going to provide some newer type of devices that’s faster.

I think that’s an example I will really provide to the CIOs and really getting them on the seat, a seat at the table in terms of being recognized as that true innovative thought leader. And be able to have those kind of discussions with the board versus the traditional technology leader who just still speak tech lingo.

Jared Johnson: Okay. So then let’s flip the script a little bit then and let’s talk about how health IT vendors themselves actually support your mission as the CIO.

David Chou: No, I think that’s great to have. You got to have partnership. I think the vendors play a strong role. If you talk about any EMR rollout or any huge projects, the CIO’s teams cannot function without a good partnership.

I think that it’s really up to the vendors to support that. I leave it on the vendors to create that strategy at times as well. You have to stay engaged with them in terms of where they are focusing on, where are they headed the next two or three years. Making sure that’s in line with your organization’s business objectives.

I will say that’s a really strong partnership that needs to exist. The advice should be if they really want to have a seat at the table and be that true partner, they have to understand the business problem versus making a quick sale. I’ve seen lots of vendors out there who are just good at making a quick sale and then the next time they call you, which is probably three years later when your renewal is due or when time for a refresh. So those are not considered partners.

The partners are the ones that’s going to be with you the entire step of the way. They’re going to provide some business insight, some valuable input. That’s what I would recommend to vendors in terms of the engagement with the CIOs to be able to provide value. Otherwise, it’s very transactional.

Jared Johnson: Well here’s a good example of that and I’d love your comments on this story. You probably heard about this Dr. Charles Perry, the CMIO at New York Health and Hospitals who resigned as CMIO because supposedly their go live with . . . that big implementation that’s planned for go live April 1st, he’s saying that could lead to patient harm and even death. What’s the word on the street about that story? I know there’s more to that story.

David Chou: Right. Well I mean I can only speculate, right? This is based upon what I know. I know historically, there has been a few attempts to go live with the EMR that has failed whether it’s budgeting or resources I think. As far as this goes, I think there’s probably a huge concern coming from clinicians. As far as what the real story is, I don’t know. But I think that is a concern when you hear a senior leader step down and actually make it publicly known that he stepped down for his one reason. Most of the time, if you step down and then decide to move on, you really wouldn’t publicize it. But the fact that he’s publicizing it, raises some red flags as well.

So I think based on my experience with Epic, they’ve always done a great job of providing support. They have always done a good job of providing the resources we require. I just don’t know exactly with this situation what is going on or what’s the story behind it. But historically, I think Epic has done a good job of providing support because their name is on the line too.

When you look at it from a go live, any enterprise go-live situation, the vendor’s name is on the line as well. So I know they hate it every time they go live with an organization and then six to eight months later, you hear big press release about how this organization lost hundreds of millions dollars because they weren’t live with the EMR.

I think both parties are interested in protecting the brand, making sure it’s as successful as it could be. With the NYC, I just don’t know the exact story as far as what’s going on there.

Jared Johnson: Well let’s focus again on innovation here for a little bit. So you spoke at HIMSS. There was a panel put together that happened to be part of the live HITsm tweet chat for that week. It was about innovation and you were on that panel with Rasu Shrestha, with Lygeia, with Drex DeFord I believe. So from your standpoint then, where are you seeing the greatest innovations in health IT happening right now?

David Chou: So the challenge that I see is there’s lots of great innovation pockets, right? You hear about great innovation tools out there that’s in silos. Apple announced yesterday their CareKit. Well that’s a great innovation in itself but there’s a challenge there. How is that going to integrate with the physicians? How is that going to integrate with the health system? So I think there’s a challenge there because that’s one example where you’re seeing different pockets.

We hear about great innovation tools for the consumers which consumers can’t proactively monitor their wellness. Well great tool but what do you do with the data afterwards? How is that going to be integrated for your completeness of health? So I think there’s always that gap that I’ve seen in terms of these innovations.

But I really think fundamentally it’s something where we have to come together as an institution within the US is really . . . the one thing we’re really missing as compared to other countries is we don’t have a unique patient identifier. We have been struggling with this for a long, long time.

I remember when I started my first career, we’re talking about putting together various mechanisms to create a unique patient identifier. We look at the history of health information exchanges, the various names that has morphed in to where it is today, we still have that one fundamental problem. There’s not a unique way to identify David Chou as a patient.

Look at how where we are today as citizens of the US. We all have different mechanisms of unique identifiers ranging from social security numbers. Even when you travel, if you travel a lot, you may global entry from the TSA. You have a unique number that could identify who you are. But somehow we’re missing that solution for health care. We’re trying to work on it but I just feel as if we keep on going around and around. We don’t have that solid solution.

What that does, it’s really hard to get to the next level of innovation. Think about it just within any organization itself, how many duplicate medical records you have just within your organization for the same patient? Think about that’s going to be exponential if they start traveling to other facility with health care providers within the community. So I think fundamentally that’s something we have to just get it done right in terms of innovation.

Is that innovative? No, because I think we all have that concept in our heads. I think before we could do a lot of the other cool things that we talk about that we want to see, we really have to figure out how to get this unique patient identifier done before some of the other things can really take off.

Jared Johnson: Was there anything else that you’d like to share as we wind up here with the greater health IT community?

David Chou: Well I would say if you look at the grand scheme of things, we have gone a long way in the last eight years. Prior to that before meaningful years, we were not electronic. So when I look at the grand scheme of things coming from a paper environment, where the majority of health care organizations were to being mostly electronic these days within eight to nine years, that’s a major feat, a major accomplishment.

So if we look at the grand scheme of things here, we really have come a long way. But when you start thinking about the day to day, the year to year, where what have we done differently, what have we changed? It really feels like you haven’t done much. But when you look at the grand scheme of things, I think that the entire health care vertical has come a long way. We just have to find a way to keep that momentum going and maybe leapfrog a few years so that we could get to where we want to be in our mindset.

Jared Johnson: I think a lot of people would agree with you that we can look back and if that helps us set the pace for what innovation looks like moving forward then I think that that’s very wise indeed to look back and be able to see that progress. I think that is important.

David Chou: Agree.

Jared Johnson: Well hey, David, I’ve got one more question for you. This is our bonus. It is, if you could join any rock band or music artist for a day, who would that be?

David Chou: This is a fun one just because I love all various types of music ranging from R&B to hip-hop, even the DJs that you’re starting to see popping up in Vegas all the time. So I’ll go with the EDM stuff. I’ll go with like the Tiesto, Calvin Harris. That would be a fun thing to be a part of every day. I would love to be part of that environment.

Jared Johnson: Isn’t that amazing to be able to look back? I mean 5 or 10 years ago, you wouldn’t have had . . . the EDM culture had looked very different and it definitely hadn’t had its mainstream moment yet. So yeah, I love that as well. I think listeners probably get sick of me just about every time everyone answers that question because I ask that of every guest, every week on the program. They probably think, “Gosh, Jared always says he loves that kind of music.” Well I do have pretty varied interests as well.

David Chou: Yes. It has come a long way. I mean you’re seeing all these clubs in Vegas, that’s how they were able to attract folks in town. Before it used to be who has the best party, but the parties doesn’t mean anything. Now it’s who’s got the best DJ? I’m going to go based on who’s playing that night. So it has really become a bigger market that most folks have ever expected.

Jared Johnson: Well David, I again appreciate having you on the program today. For any listeners who want to get a hold of you or have a question for you, is there a way they can reach you?

David Chou: Yeah. They could find me through various social platforms. They can find on me on Twitter @Dchou, D-C-H-O-U1107. They can find me on LinkedIn. They could find me on Facebook and even Snapchat. I’m starting to use Snapchat. I think I wrote something recently about how I’m going to start using Snapchat to see if I can engage with younger teen members that I have just because I know that’s their platform of choice. So various different platforms to reach me.

I’ll be open to hearing lots of comments and feedback and questions and even challenges. I’m very open so I would love to hear people’s thoughts on where the industry is moving towards and where we need to work on.

Jared Johnson: Cool. Thanks for that and you don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to but is there some significance to the 1107 in your Twitter handle?

David Chou: It’s my birthday.

Jared Johnson: Is it?

David Chou: So if you want to buy me a birthday gift, just very easy to remember. So I’m going to expect birthday presents all the time now.

Jared Johnson: All right. Listeners, you heard that. Hey, David, I appreciate it and definitely keep up the good work. Again let us know how we can help you as listeners because that’s what this program is all about. But I appreciate your time today.

David Chou: Thank you.

Jared Johnson: Well that wraps up our program this week. What did you think this time? Let me know what you thought. Tweet me @Jaredpiano. That’s J-A-R-E-D P-I-A-N-O, Jared Piano and let me know what you thought.

You can leave a review and subscribe on iTunes also. We’d love a few more reviews there on iTunes. You can also subscribe on Stitcher Radio or on Podbean or on your favorite podcasting app.

Ladies and gentlemen, remember it is up to us to tell the story of innovation in health IT. Remember to build that audience one gig at a time.

Until next time, I’m Jared Johnson and you’ve been listening to the Health IT Marketer podcast. This program is sponsored by Ultera Digital, influencer and content marketing. For a full archive, go to HealthITMarketer.com, that’s HealthITMarketer.com. Thanks again for tuning in and I’ll talk to you again next week.